One lifetime is simply not enough for international arms dealer, Aboubacar Hima, who in words and deeds has proven he can achieve in a lifetime what a hundred peers and competitors may find daunting. A cat with nine lives, the man better known in business circles as “Petit Boube” has managed for two years so far to fend off anti-corruption inquiries in two countries while springing surprises in new territories.
Officially wanted in Nigeria by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Aboubacar Hima has long moved on, traversing the length and breadth of West Africa and beyond to Eastern Europe, particularly the Czech Republic where he relocated his business in the heat of two-high profile investigations against him – one in Nigeria and the other in his home country Niger Republic.
Forced to lay low for a while, the tide turned in his favour when a new President, Mohamed Bazoum, was elected in Niger Republic 2021. By the middle of last year, Hima had begun to re-emerge from hibernation. It was the outgone regime of President Mahamadou Issoufou that instituted a panel that probed wrongdoings by military contractors of which companies owned by Aboubacar Hima were found to have fleeced Niger, one of Africa’s poorest countries of billions of CFA Franc.
A source within the journalists union in Niamey, Association Contrechamps Niger, told BUSINESS leaks that Petit Boube was among the top campaign financiers that brought President Mohamed Bazoum to power. He said the controversial businessman, though not holding any elective or appointed position, is effectively the de facto Minister of Special Duty, who has since the coming to power of the new President, played the role of a special envoy to Mohamed Bazoum.
The source pointed to an event organized by the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism where Aboubacar Hima was treated by protocol like a stalwart.
Commenting on the swift rehabilitation of Petit Boube by the new President, the source further said most of the Ministers in the new government defer to the billionaire businessman because of his chummy closeness with the President. He added that it did not come as a surprise that the report of the probe panel that indicted the arms dealer has been tossed aside.
BUSINESS LEAKS further gathered that citizens of Niger Republic are left in no doubt that Aboubacar Hima is back in town and has reclaimed his influence in the country’s power corridor. The body language of the new President said much so. Shortly after he assumed office, Mohamed Basoum’s first assignments included a purchase of arms. The new President gave orders for the purchase of an attack helicopter from Eastern Europe; the same region where Petit Boube holds sway as an arms broker. A good number of the companies involved in the controversial military equipment contracts probed by the military panel in Niamey were from Eastern Europe and Aboubacar Hima’s trade partners.
BUSINESS LEAKS was unable to confirm if Aboubacar Hima played any role in the purchase of the attack helicopter but he may not be too far from helping the new government in setting the agenda. It was further gathered that the total purchase plan by the President was for four Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters and 4 combat aircraft.
Open for business
Prinvest is the name of the new company floated by Aboubacar Hima. Located in the Yantala Haut district in central Niamey, it is the newest of six arms brokerage firms directly owned by Hima or linked to him.
Information gathered from Crunchbase reads thus:
“Hima Aboubakar is a well-known military equipment contractor, took the helm of a new Niamey-registered company called Privinvest. He manages the contracts of its customers and its operating agencies and ensures the regular follow-up of existing customers, take new markets.”
The arms dealer from Niger Republic is a familiar face in Abuja’s power corridor. Hima , the CEO of Société D’ Equipment (SEI) International Nigeria Limited, is wanted by the EFCC over a case bothering on alleged criminal conspiracy, contract scam, misappropriation of public funds, and money laundering.
The Commission in a statement published in 2020 said “the man is accused of engaging in series of fraud to the tune of over $394 million, £9.9m and N369m.” The EFCC further stated that Aboubakar received the funds for the purchase of equipment for the Nigerian military and that “investigations have revealed discrepancies in the supply of the equipment.”
The public notice concluded by saying: “Having failed to honour invitations from the Commission, Hima is currently evading investigation, thus the need to declare him wanted. 46-year-old Hima is a Nigerien citizen. The suspect speaks French and Hausa languages fluently but has limited English proficiency. His last known address is Block A, Flat 3, No.5 Sapele Street, Garki 1, Abuja. Anybody having useful information as to his whereabouts should contact the Commission …”
Last year BUSINESS LEAKS reported that Hima was ensconced in Czech Republic where he owns a number of luxury homes in Prague the capital. Aside the nickname “Petit Boube”, the businessman who was an artisanal printer in Niger Republic before he got his breakthrough in Nigeria, is also called “Style Féroce” by close associates.
Similarly, in addition to Société D’ Equipment, Aboubacar Hima has other registered companies; among them TSI and BRID A DEFCON. Both companies were founded in Nigeria and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). BRID A DEFCON now has a physical presence in Czech Republic where it has opened shop. The firm is believed to have since been a local partner to DEFCON, a Czech arms supplier.
The businessman is said to know virtually all the high and mighty in Czech’s arms industry. BUSINESS leaks learnt that the day-to-day running of his company is in the hands of a Czech lawyer by the name Jiri Horak. Jiri who is from a law firm called Rovenska Partners, is embedded in Aboubacar Hima’s brokerage company.
At the last count, Aboubacar Hima’s name has come up in three major fraud investigations in three different countries namely Nigeria, Niger Republic, and the USA. In Nigeria, the businessman is accused by the EFCC of defrauding the government in the multi-billion arms supply contract.
After he was declared wanted following failures to honour EFCC invitations, the anti-graft agency proceeded to court and secured the final forfeiture of five houses and a total sum of N46 million (N46, 060, 373.84), belonging to Hima Aboubakar and Societe D’ Equipment International Nigeria Limited, to the federal government.
The five properties forfeited include: House Number 6, Ethiopia Close, Off Owena close, Maitama Abuja; Plot 3515, Cadastral Zone A06 Maitama District, Abuja; Plot 3516, Cadastral Zone A06 Maitama District, Abuja; Plot 3518, Cadastral Zone A06 Maitama District, Abuja and Plot 3519, Cadastral Zone A06 Maitama District, Abuja. Also, a total sum of N46 million found in the bank accounts of Mr Aboubakar and his firm, were also forfeited to the government.
The breakdown of the money include N1, 143, 314.50, found in the Zenith Bank Account Number 1013860768 of Societe D’ Equipment International Nigeria Limited (SEINL) and the sum of $66, 417.60 found in the Zenith Bank Account Number 5070345440 of SEINL. Others are: N5, 802, 925.03 in Aboubakar’s Zenith Bank Account Number: 1004540143, €15, 288.08 in Zenith Bank Account Number: 5080095319 and $17, 607.75 in his Zenith Bank Account Number: 5070410935. The sum of N 304, 864, 81 in Aboubakar’s First Bank Account Number: 3083229135 was also forfeited to the government.
Name pops up in another investigation in US
Two years after the asset forfeitures, an improbable twist was recorded in the arms saga when in July 2022, another court in Nigeria ordered Federal Government to return the forfeited five houses and foreign currencies in bank accounts Aboubakar Hima. The court agreed with Aboubacar Hima’s lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, who had faulted the processes leading to the final forfeiture saying his client whom he claimed the EFCC had visited in Niger Republic, was not properly served the interim forfeiture order published only in a Nigerian newspaper without the same order couriered to him in his home country.
BUSINESS LEAKS gathered that Aboubacar Hima is no stranger to controversies. Married to the daughter of late President Ibrahim Bare Maïnassara of Niger Republic who was killed in a bloody coup d’état in1999, “Petit Boube” is similarly facing a military procurement probe in his home country.
In 2020 a public prosecutor in Niger requested the opening of a legal investigation into the activities of some key defence brokers, among them Aboubacar Hima. On at least three occasions in 2020 the Police in his country invited him for questioning. Hima denied any wrongdoings with his lawyer, Marc Le Bihan, claiming it was the government that owed his client money with all the contracts fully executed. The audit report said Aboubakar Hima did not only inflate contract sums, equipment ordered were not delivered.
The audit report showed that between 2017 and 2018 Aboubacar Hima’s firm BRID A DEFCON was awarded a 30-million-euros contract to supply 80 trucks from Steyr Motors Austria. The auditors discovered the contract was inflated by 15 million euros just as spare parts worth 1.4 million euros were never delivered.
The second contract was for the supply of bombs, cartridges, and accessories valued at 24 million euros. A third contract for the delivery of different military equipment valued at 11 million euros was not executed.
The Czech company, DEFCON, believed to be Aboubacar Hima’s technical partner is mentioned in the audit report in Niger Republic. Checks by BUSINESS LEAKS showed that DEFCON has a presence in some West African countries. The company is known to have regularly trained Nigerian Air Force pilots in the Czech Republic. Last year DEFCON, Bowenite and Česká were among a group of Czech’s defence and security companies that went on a business mission to Gabon where they made pitches to the Gabonese Armed Forces.
From continent to continent, Aboubacar Hima’s name cropped up in North America when on 15 May 2019, Ara Dolarian, a US citizen living in Bulgaria, was arrested in California USA on suspicion of illegally brokering the sale of military-grade arms and munitions, money laundering and conspiracy.
A report by Good Governance Africa said that Dolarian is the President of Dolarian Capital Inc., an arms brokering company with offices in US and Bulgaria. US prosecutors revealed that in June 2014 Dolarian entered into sales contracts with Aboubacar Hima’s company, Societe D Équipments Internationaux (SEI) Nigeria Ltd, which was acting on behalf of the Nigerian government, for the purchase and transfer of high-explosive bombs, rockets, military-grade firearms and aircraft-mounted cannons worth more than $8.5 million.
In a chronicle of the billionaire’s humble beginning, Jeune Afrique reported that Hima started out printing calendars and business cards and handling small printing jobs for government ministries and the National Assembly. In 2005, he married one of the daughters of the late President Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara, by name Samira. This allowed him to enter other circles of power in Niamey. Then he met a political “godfather” in the person of Abdou Labo who later became the Minister of Defense.
It was through Abdou Labo that Aboubacar Hima entered Nigeria during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Labo knew Sambo Dasuki, the National Security Adviser to President Jonathan. Hima became the messenger between his godfather Labo and Dasuki and soon was building his own nest in Nigeria.
It is believed that Hima leberaged on Dasuki’s extensive network in Eastern Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Russia where Nigeria was being supplied with helicopters and other combat aircraft. Hima later became the main arms supplier to the Ministry of Defense in his country and ultimately benefitted in huge defense contracts in Nigeria under Dasuki.
Since his comeback, Aboubacar Hima has reportedly pulled off new defence equipment contracts in some West African countries, including Senegal.
This investigation was carried out under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project of the WSCIJ, with funding from the MacArthur Foundation.